Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Trains Plains and no more Automobiles 200km Audax Saturday 15th July 2017

I had such a good time on the inaugural Great Western Randonnées (GWR) Wells and Mells and Old Rail Trail Audax back in March, that I was keen to do another one by Will, the organiser with a penchant for detail and the odd hill. I really must get myself an Audax Club Bristol orange shirt.
The next one was 200km. Plains Trains and no more Automobiles from Bristol to Stonehenge and back.
I have ridden 200km once back in July 2015, but it was a charity sportive (Break the Cycle) with feed stations, signage, mechanical backup and the all important "ring from anywhere and we will come and get you broomwagon" I didn't have a Garmin then, so route finding was a huge challenge for me. My BRCC club mates looked after me that day, and I was thrilled to get from Bristol Rugby Club to Bath RC and then Gloucester RC and back to Bristol. A 180 km or so and I rode to and from the start to make 200.

Riding a 200km audax is different. You are responsible for yourself. Route finding, food, mechanically and physically. Yes your fellow audaxers look out for anyone obviously struggling with a puncture or looking a bit lost, but you cannot guarantee anyone will be around. Especially if you mess up on the route finding bit!

Without thinking about it too much I paypalled my £7 entry fee about six weeks before. Audax fees (unlike sportives with lots of costs of support and signage) are so reasonable that if I back out I won't be destitute. I would let the organiser know so that someone else could ride and nobody would lose out. A couple of my ride buddies said they were signed up/thinking about it.

Once you have paid it is honourable to commit.

I had sensible training already in place, three hilly 100km + rides in the Lakes at the beginning of July, since christened Tour de Lakes. For various reasons that training/mini tour didn't go to plan. Just one hillyish 100km ride. The weekend before I did go out on a BRCC club ride and rode a good 100km ride and forced myself up two big hills in the final few kilometres to test my metal. I slogged up Portbury, descended Belmont and forced myself to turn around and go back up again in blazing sunshine even though I was a couple of miles from home!

I wasn't confident enough in my ability not to roll over and go back to sleep at a 5.30am alarm. If I passed that test I didn't really admit to many I was intending to ride, in case I cried off after a few miles. Mainly I didn't want other kind cycling friends feeling obliged to ride at my slow pace.

I did know that riding the flat 18km up to Warmley really wasn't sensible, it would be a straw to break this camel's back After expressing this worry a couple of days before, Steve looked horrified and stated "but I'm taking you of course." He is the best, no ifs no buts he was getting up to drive me up there at 6am. Now I cannot fail.

Porridge and blueberries by 6, I stash bananas, Nakd bars, electrolyte tabs, cheese and pickle rolls, 2 pieces of fruit cake, sun cream and a battery charger for the Garmin. No way will it last 200km at my speed! We arrive at the car park next to Warmley waiting room at 6.30 and greet the Weston Wheelers, my audax buddies. nobody looks too full of beans. Some are partaking in the bacon butties but they're not my thing. I sign on and collect my brevet card. 210km to go!

Part 1 Warmley to Blunsdon 56km 450m

Some have peddled off, and seeing that it's still 10 minutes to go I decide to leave as well, I will be passed very quickly but it's nice not to be last from the off. My club mates roll past with cheery greetings 15 minutes later, I think they were surprised I'd turned out! That was the last I saw of them.
The first town is Malmesbury, after a haul up through Dryham Park. I cannot believe I have never been here. As with all previous audax the interesting towns and villages just whet your appetite for a return visit to explore properly.
Malmesbury Church
58km later, and a lovely pleasant roll with a hint of a tailwind into Swindon and Cricklade Railway completes the top side of the square and the first control is the Station Café for obligatory beans on toast in Blunsdon. A nice ride all done by 9.30. I can go home now, if I want. Or I can turn south.
Swindon and Cricklade Railway
Blunsdon beans were rather inefficient. A lot of prep goes into beans on toast, perhaps made from scratch? A quick turnaround it wasn't. With hindsight I was glad I did have my beans though!

Part 2 Blunsdon to Boynton via Stonehenge 85km 700m

Next up is an 85km jaunt to Boyton, south and then west.
Through Royal Wootton Bassett...
As it says on the sign!

After a little detour on a bike path track I was relieved to get back to the road and saw another couple of audaxers and headed for Stonehenge. Through army barracks and past lots of "Keep Out" signs and Stonehenge loomed ahead. This part was on a gravelly track but it gave a great view of the stones and kept us away from the hoardes. I stopped for a photo but nobody else around. Not the best photo ever!

Salibury Plains and Stonehenge
Now the long push west on the rolling Salisbury Plain. Overcast and a very strong westerly was blowing. I had no one to chaingang with so I just had to keep going, on and on and on on those up and down rolling plains with rather more fast traffic than I'd like. I used this sign as an excuse to stop for a breather and some sustenance. still quite a way to the next control
Tanks crashing into sign too
Finally I rolled into the Ginger Piggery. A lovely café and my friends from the Weston Wheelers were wrapping up their lunch. I was cross eyed by now. I knew I had to get on my way quickly to make the cut off, so I ordered a large pot of tea and sat down with them with a roll and some fruit cake I had brought with me. Far too often the controls are too crowded to get food speedily and as I am not speedy I had planned to be more self sufficient this time. I did feel very guilty, but as it happened it was wise planning as the cafe had totally run out of food bar a slice of Victoria Sponge. The need for savoury carbs was kicking in. I received some messages from the BRCC guys ahead very concerned that I would be without food, they had had to go to a garage up the road.
The Ginger Piggery
I did rest a while, my Garmin having a boost from the battery pack. I wasn't the last to leave.

Part 3 Boynton to Warmley 70km 850m

Just 70km to go, a short club run, realistically 3.5 hrs pedalling time.

I bashed on, there were a few more audaxers around on this section. It was a relief to turn north and know I was on the home stretch. Just the small matter of the nasty hills around Radstock and then the last 15km are downhill. Quite a large bunch had stopped at another café so I was feeling good that I may not come in practically last. I got up all the Radstock Hills, and stupidly didn't just eat one more Nakd Bar, anyone can polish off the last 20km right?

I passed the Warmley sign, after quite a hairy descent on busyish roads but being nearly back was keeping me going and knowing that Steve was waiting for me at the Hollybush Pub in Warmley, just round the corner from our start point,  no way could I contemplate riding home too.

I went round the corner and 4km from the pub is a very slight incline, that stretched ahead. My legs were not aching but my body and brain disengaged, I could not move. I stood on the verge, ate something, drank some more. Parties of triumphant audaxers passed me by, all enquiring kindly if I was OK, which I assured them I was. After 15 mins the food had worked through enough and I slowly pedalled up the biggest hill ever (not) and made it to the finish. Just within cut off time. A bemused husband was wondering where the heck I had got to!

Boy was I glad to be back and the elation quickly took over. My first official 200km audax done. 10 hours peddling time and exactly 21km/hr average

I'm very proud of all my audax cards, but this one is perhaps the biggest achievement.
My first Brevet Randonnée aka 200km audax


  1. Well done you, that puts my tiny mileage to shame.

    1. Rubbish Morag, I'm constantly inspired by your running, cycling and absolute superb knitting and photography skills! I'm guilty of it too, but really it's not a competition. Yes we all want to be better, the best, win gold at the Olympics, but everyone can achieve more than they think they can. As you prove daily.